Tony Danza hit a double header with back to back successful televisions series, Taxi and Who’s The Boss? After more than four decades, he still remains a household name.
However, the 72-year-old silver fox wasn’t always on the path to stardom. In fact, it was during a boxing training session that his acting career began…and as they say, the rest is history.
Here we take a trip down memory lane with our favorite “Tony.”
Tony Danza landed ‘Taxi’ in the boxing ring
Born in Brooklyn, New York, to a family of Italian immigrants, at age 14, Anthony Salvatore ladanza moved with his family to Malverne on Long Island where he attended Malverne Senior High School, graduating in 1968.
Danza describes himself as a “bad student,” but went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Dubuque, which he attended on a wrestling scholarship.
Danza’s boxing career, which initially began in 1975, started out as a joke. Friends entered him in the New York City Golden Gloves, where he knocked out his first six opponents all in the first round. Danza was eventually knocked out in the finals, but he became a professional boxer with a record of 9 wins and three losses with 9 knockouts, seven in the first round.
Tony had thought acting would be a side gig to his boxing career while he trained for his world championship attempt, until two producers came in looking for a boxer who also had acting chops, and approached the then 27-year-old.
“I was training in Gleason’s Gym on 30th and 8th Avenue, where it was the Mecca of boxing, and a guy walked in who couldn’t rub two quarters together and said, ‘Did you ever think of being on TV?’ And somehow I ended up on Taxi which is the craziest thing of all.” He told NPR‘s Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me.
“The part in Taxi was originally written for a guy named Phil Ryan, so they made it Phil Banta, and then they made it Tony Banta, which sounded a lot better anyway,” he said in an interview with Esquire.
‘Who’s the Boss?’ almost didn’t happen
After Taxi wrapped in 1982, came Who’s the Boss? However, 33-year-old Tony’s brush with the law almost sidelined his acting ambitions. He nearly ended up behind bars two days before filming began after getting into a fight with a restaurant guard.
Danza worried that he wouldn’t make the first shoot dates of the famous sitcom, but was relieved when he was given a sentence of 250 community service hours instead.
Millions of fans would have been disappointed with Danza in jail because Who’s The Boss? ran for an incredible eight seasons and broke all syndication records. With a household name, he leveraged the success to land a few feature films and other entertainment venues.
Tony Danza’s other movies and shows
Between Taxi and Who’s the Boss? Danza moved seamlessly between the small and big screen added credits to his growing resume. The Hollywood Knights (1980) was his movie debut, followed by Going Ape!
Danza also appeared in short-lived sitcoms, such as Hudson Street in 1995 and in the late 1990s also branched out to Broadway in its revival of The Iceman Cometh, starred on Broadway in The Producers.
He was nominated for an Emmy for a guest starring role in The Practice. He then had his own talk show, The Tony Danza Show, that ran from 2004-2006, then in 2010 he stepped out of his comfort zone again. A boxer, actor…now a teacher?
Danza, by his own admission was a poor student, but that didn’t stop him from filming an A&E reality show, Teach: Tony Danza, in which he taught a 10th grade English class at Northeast High School in Philadelphia.
Danza prepped and underwent new-teacher orientation before entering Northeast Philly’s tough school. He taught a class of 26 sophomores, and ultimately, “Mr. D.” ended up making the grade. Not only did Mr. D. teach in the school, he helped coach Northeast’s football team, organized a student variety show, and sang the national anthem at a Phillies game.
Tony’s brush with death
In June 1993, Tony’s beloved mom passed away, just one year after Who’s The Boss? ended its run. It was a difficult period for Danza, who had a hard time coping with her death. In 2015, Danza spoke on The Dr. Oz Show about how his frame of mind at the time led him to lose concentration while skiing in Deer Valley, Utah. “The reason I fell…is because I [had] lost my mother, it was the first Christmas and I had her in my mind.”
At a high rate of downhill speed, Danza hit a rock and flipped himself into a tree. Left with a punctured lung, two broken vertebrae, and eight broken ribs, he was in critical condition for almost a month.
The actor credits his mother’s strength for his survival and said his scrape with death left him with the realization that you only have one life to live, so you have to make the most of it.
Is Tony Danza still married?
Tony experienced love with many women throughout the years, but he’s only walked down the aisle with his two ex-wives, Rhonda Yeoman and Tracy Robinson. His first marriage was in 1970 when he said “I do” to Rhonda, whom he met while he was studying at the University of Dubuque in Iowa, where he received a bachelor’s in 1972.
After tying the knot, Tony and his college sweetheart welcomed their first child, Marc Danza, in 1971. They divorced three years later in 1974. More than a decade later, however, the duo reconciled and exchanged vows once again in 1983, according to Glamour Path. That same year, the couple had their second child together, Gina Danza. Once again, though, Tony and Rhonda called it quits in 1985.
It wasn’t long before Tony found love with his second spouse, Tracy in 1986, and just one year later, they expanded the family when their daughter, Katherine Danza, was born in 1987. Tony completed his brood when Emily Danza arrived in 1993. Tony and Tracy were married for 15 years until the star filed for divorce in March 2011.
But these days Tony is focused less on love and more on being a doting grandfather. “It’s very profound to watch your son father his sons, especially when he’s so much better at it than you were,” Tony exclusively told Closer Weekly. “I said to [Marc], ‘You know what the difference is between you and me as a father? See how you take your kids to play baseball? I used to take you to watch me play baseball.’ And at the end of the game, I’d say ‘how did I do?’”
What Tony Danza is doing now
Danza recently starred in the 2018 Netflix series The Good Cop, appropriately playing another character named, you guessed it…Tony. He has since appeared in a handful of sitcoms and television shows, but he is now chasing his newest passion: music.
This spring, Danza has been touring with his four-piece band in their live show, Standards & Stories. Combining timeless music with wit, charm, storytelling, and a dash of soft shoe and ukulele performances, Danza performs a selection of his favorite standards from the Great American Songbook while interweaving stories about his life and personal connection to the music.
Tony Danza’s thoughts on a Taxi reboot
“When I think about Taxi and how integral it was to my life and who I am, it’s almost like a temple,” he told EW in 2018, when asked about a Taxi reboot. “It was so great to work there. I would love to see it happen.”
After five decades of entertainment, Danza has proved that he’s a man of many talents, and we can’t wait to see what he does next!
Bonnie Siegler is an established international writer covering the celebrity circuit for more than 15 years. Bonnie’s resume includes two books that combine her knowledge of entertaining with celebrity health and fitness and has written travel stories which focus on sustainable living. She has contributed to magazines including Woman’s World and First for Women, Elle, InStyle, Shape, TV Guide and Viva. Bonnie served as West Coast Entertainment Director for Rive Gauche Media overseeing the planning and development of print and digital content. She has also appeared on entertainment news shows Extra and Inside Edition.